The Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) recently conducted a survey of its member companies with respect to skills requirements and human resource priorities. The high response rate clearly underscores the importance of these issues to corporate Canada.
It is important to note that Canada is suffering from skills shortages in certain regions, sectors, and occupations. This has also been confirmed by reports from TD Economics and the Conference Board of Canada. The main sectors that suffer due to skills shortages are energy, utilities, mining, construction, accounting, manufacturing, retail, food service, and insurance. Workers in engineering and I.T. sector occupations are often difficult to recruit. As well, chronic shortages in several skilled trades such as carpenters, plumbers, mechanics, electricians, boilermakers, welders, heavy equipment operators and machinists have been reported. It is expected that these shortages will grow as Canada’s population ages and the economy expands.
The reason for skill shortages is that the education system is not producing the types of graduates that companies need. There is often reluctance on the part of some Canadians to relocate for the purpose of employment. However, the foremost barrier in skill shortages is the challenge of recruiting workers from outside of Canada. The recent reforms made by Citizenship and Immigration Canada through ‘Express Entry’ help companies recruit the required skilled workers faster. However, some obstacles remain such as issues related to foreign credential recognition, difficulties in attracting immigrants to certain regions of the country, and integrating new Canadians into the community and work place.
Skills shortages are a major concern for companies that are in expansion mode or planning huge projects. This has resulted in a loss of projects, lost efficiency, weakened profitability, inflated staffing costs, and an inability to deliver.
The Canadian Government through Citizenship and Immigration Canada has addressed the needs of corporations and businesses and has recently introduced a new electronic system called ‘Express Entry’. The system is being used by the CIC to manage applications received under such categories as:
Canadian Experience Class
Provincial Nominee Programs
Federal Skilled Worker Program
Canadian businesses can hire candidates from the Express Entry system in order to meet labour needs when there is a skills shortage and an inability to fill job vacancies with Canadians or permanent residents. Express Entry candidates with a valid job offer will quickly receive an invitation to apply (ITA) for permanent residence. Note that there is no change in the program eligibility criteria for any of the above categories.
Applicants applying under the Canadian Experience Class already have work experience in Canada. Potential candidates interested in applying to the Canadian Experience Class must go through the Express Entry system and will likely benefit from faster processing.
Most provinces in Canada are assisting businesses to recruit candidates from within or outside of Canada. As a general rule priority is given to candidates who are in Canada with study or work experience. Businesses can also recruit candidates from outside Canada through Provincial Nominee Programs. Under the Provincial Nominee Programs, provinces can nominate people who meet specific local labour market needs for permanent residence. Provincial Nominee Programs are being adopted by most provinces but the criteria for each program differs from province to province.
Canadian businesses looking to recruit workers in skilled occupations can offer jobs to foreign workers in Canada. Skilled workers have skilled professional work experience and are chosen as permanent residents based on their ability to contribute to the Canadian economy. Potential candidates interested in applying to the Federal Skilled Worker Program must now go through the Express Entry system.
Canadian employers can also hire foreign workers through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program or the International Mobility Program. The Temporary Foreign Worker Program allows employers to hire foreign workers to fill temporary labour and skills shortages. Employers need to obtain a Labour Market Impact Assessment from Employment and Social Development Canada to hire the foreign worker. The Labour Market Impact Assessment is intended to verify the need for the foreign worker and that no Canadians are available to do the job.
The International Mobility Program lets employers hire foreign workers without the need of a Labour Market Impact Assessment. Exemptions from that process are available where there are reciprocal benefits for Canadians and other competitive advantages for Canada. The employer needs to pay an employer compliance fee and submit the Offer of Employment form to CIC before the foreign national can apply for a work permit.
Employers have the option to hire workers from within Canada or from abroad. Normally, employers can hire a foreign worker for up to four years. Foreign workers may go on to become permanent residents through the Federal Skilled Worker Program, Canadian Experience Class, or a Provincial Nominee Program.
In conclusion, various options are available through Citizenship and Immigration Canada to resolve the issue of labour shortages. These depend on the temporary or long term skills requirements of the employer and whether the worker will avail of either the temporary worker category or seek permanent residence. Express Entry should produce faster results.
Author is Barrister, Solicitor, Notary Public